Funerals in lockdown – the 10 most commonly asked questions

Grief is a tough process to go through at the best of times but add the uncertainty of the current crisis and it’s no wonder many are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a funeral.

You may think that a ceremony can’t be as personal or provide the same kind of closure due to restrictions the pandemic has put on gatherings but experts are here to ensure a loved one’s funeral is still meaningful and that family and friends find comfort in the experience.

In a recent report by Co-op Funeralcare it was revealed that nearly a quarter of all people in the UK (21 per cent) have lost a loved one in lockdown and, of those, 70% said only ten people or less attended their loved one’s funeral service. This compares to an average of 50 attendees usually. As such, Co-op Funeralcare estimates that there are now 9.7 million mourners who were unable to attend a funeral.

That said, there are many ways we can honour a friend or relative’s legacy, and if the current climate has shown us anything, it’s that we can display creativity, resilience and a sense of community in difficult times.

Co-op is hoping to dispel the myths surrounding funerals in lockdown by answering the most commonly asked questions they’ve received about the subject.

  1. How can I organise a funeral in a pandemic?
    This is something that hasn’t really changed. You have always been able to get hold of Co-op Funeralcare at any time of day or night on the phone. The only restriction now is that face-to-face planning at a funeral home has to be booked in advanced with your local funeral director.
  1. How many people can attend a funeral?
    In England and Wales, the government has advised 30 people can attend a funeral. In Scotland it’s 20 people although, the number may be lower if the venue is smaller and safe social distancing cannot be observed.
  2. Who can attend a funeral?
    So long as the number of people attending doesn’t exceed the number outlined by the government, it is up to you who goes to the funeral.

Advice is still that anyone from the higher risk groups, ie over 70s, pregnant, or with pre-existing health conditions, should consider not attending for their safety.

  1. How different are funerals right now?
    Currently funeral services have had to be adapted under social distancing guidelines and the numbers permitted to attend vary in different regions across Britain.
    The rules can also vary depending on a particular venue. This is where your local funeral director can advise you.
  2. Can I still organise a wake?
    Ceremonial events that are linked to the funeral – such as ash scattering or a wake – are currently limited to 15 people, however, if the event is taking place in a private dwelling, including private gardens, only members of one household or support bubble can attend.

Families may wish to consider a delayed memorial service to allow friends and family to get together at a later date once government restrictions have been lifted.

Co-op Funeralcare can help you to arrange something now or in a few months, whenever you are ready.

  1. Can I still visit my loved one in the chapel of rest?
    You can still visit loved ones in the care of Co-op Funeralcare, but this is limited to a maximum of two visitors.
  2. Can funerals be held in a church?
    Yes, you can have a funeral in a church, but there are limits on how many people can attend.

As guidance is changing all the time, check the Church of England and Church of Scotland websites for the most up-to-date information.

  1. Can funerals be live-streamed for those who can’t attend?
    Yes, many crematoriums now have the facility to live-stream or record funeral services so that they can be watched via a web link at a suitable time for people in different countries. In fact, according to Co-op Funeralcare’s A Nation in Mourning report, ten per cent of those who have experienced a bereavement since lockdown said that attending a funeral that was live streamed has helped them to grieve.

Talking about the subject of easing the pain of grief, Andy Langford, Clinical Director at Cruse Bereavement Care, said: “When you feel you have no control over how you can grieve, and over how you can experience those last moments with someone, that can complicate how you grieve. There are things people can do, such as live streaming the funeral or holding a memorial at home.

“However, the most important thing is to keep in contact with others as you’re going through this unprecedented and upsetting experience. Similarly, if you know someone struggling, we would encourage you to reach out to them – just knowing someone is there for them can make all the difference.”

  1. Are there special ways that I can say goodbye to a loved one at this time?
    You could use social media, where friends and family upload pictures and memories of your loved one.
    Setting Covid-19 aside, there are lots of ways to personalise a funeral. This can be simple, such as the Co-op Funeralcare team wearing ties in your loved one’s favourite colour at the service; or something more, such as a picture coffin with touching images from their life. Or planting seeds or a memorial tree.

You have the freedom to make your unique goodbye as special as they were.

Discussing the impact coronavirus has had on the funeral care industry, Jon Levett, Chief Executive of the National Association of Funeral Directors said: “The pandemic has brought the quiet professionalism of funeral directors, and the difficult nature of their job they do, to the fore.

“Witnessing the funeral of a loved one is an important part of the grieving process, and reducing funerals to their most essential elements has provoked a national conversation about the importance of being there to say goodbye.”